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The IT Crowd: Are We Not Men?

The One With…

Moss and Roy stumbling into a Guy Richie movie. Jen dating a magician-alike.

I Love Willies

May as well do this one first, because it had me in pain – actual, agonising pain – when it happened: Moss and Roy’s kiss.

It’s not funny because it’s vaguely inappropriate, actually – the ‘two straight but often asexual guys’ thing is a minor player in the success of the moment. It’s funny because a) it’s the first thing that occurs to Moss as a way of evading police attention because he’s spent his life watching far too many movies; b) further aping little-understood movie-style behaviour, Moss goes for the full 9 ½ Weeks, trying to climb Roy like a Jungle Gym; c) there’s a great reveal of two vast bins which seem ideally suited to hiding behind; d) when the cops come by a second time, Moss goes straight back to the original plan and forgets about the bins; and e) because when they come the second time, the police cars are almost endless in number.

It just builds and builds. All the pieces are there. Honestly, I had to be given oxygen.

This is probably the episode to showcase Linehan’s signature ‘cut to reveal’ move. Cut to reveal Michael, who does indeed look like a magician. Cut to reveal Roy and Moss at a football match. Cut to reveal two enormous, person-hiding bins. The timing on the robbers trying on balaclavas (trying on balaclavas!) and checking their guns while Roy witters on in the foreground is also exquisite.

Elsewhere, Moss is on great form this week. The out-of-nowhere saying of football things in a football voice was simply, effortlessly funny, while classic Moss-ness – “Michael the Magnificent”, sat in a pub with his glass of milk quivering, using an old-fashioned rattle at a footie match, or just sticking his head around the door and calling “hello” – was never far away. He even managed to swipe some of the stolen cash…in order to properly count it.

A nice bit of time is given to the in-office chatter, one of the strengths of the show that often goes unappreciated as people talk about the bigger moments. Musing on how inappropriate looking like a magician is for a driving instructor (“Only a clown would be worse.” “Or a mountie.”) is a rich and lovely moment which speaks to two guys who’ve worked together a long time. More please!

Roy’s wonderfully understated “I just went to the toilet” after being terrified by his phone call (a good spit take there, too) feels like an actor suggestion. No question, O’Dowd has very good instincts, and the gentle toning down of Roy’s hysterics – which has gone unnoticed, more or less, while the same was more obviously happening with Jen – has allowed him to find some lovely moments. The high-pitched return of his footballing phrases was a delight as he quivered in the darkness, and calling it back over the closing credits was even better.

You’ve Got Shit On Your Head

There’s a huge gap where Jen should have had an opinion on Ross and Moy being manly…and didn’t. (See What Graham Says, below)

Moss’s OCD for counting things is nearly spot-on, but the story stumbles when it transfers the obsession from staples to money. It’s only when Moss goes for the table of cash that we realise this is about counting things rather than getting the staple count correct after Roy’s transgression. The difference is important, and needed to be clarified sooner – ideally during the pub scene where, instead, Moss brought out the stapler a second time.

Actually, what are Moss and Roy doing in that pub in the first place? Why aren’t they at home on the Xbox? It feels like we’re short a line of dialogue about their plan to try out their blokeish language in the field.

Moss’s ‘Cockney neck’ goes nowhere. The visual of Moss in a neck-brace is nice, but the joke just sits there, doesn’t escalate, doesn’t attract Jen’s notice, and ultimately the brace is simply removed during other dialogue.

The two attempts to drive up the ramp into the van was slow and, unfortunately, not really funny. Not sure what didn’t work here, but it may be that it’s simply something most people would have struggled with – suddenly being asked to drive bank robbers into the back of a van – so has no ‘extra’ comedic value. Not least because it doesn’t, actually, have a funny outcome – it just takes slightly longer to hide. Things slow down without actually being made any funnier.

Jen’s date seems pretty adamant about the nature of their relationship. “You owe me that much” he says, cribbing from the Eastenders book of dramatic clichés, before begging for more chances. These lines aside, they seem to be at the early dating stage, and Jen doesn’t seem especially committed to what they have, so how is his behaviour anything other than off-puttingly clingy?

The conclusion to the dating story is disappointing, too, with Michael failing to adequately perform a magic trick. Given the wonderful hand movements shown earlier (a great visual joke where he shows off the restaurant’s cruet set as if they’re props for a trick) the poor sap clearly has an aptitude for the job, which is undersold here. Plus it really is a pretty perfunctory conclusion to a very A-B-C story – Elaine from Seinfeld would have run things in much madder, twistier directions.

What Graham Says

From Mr. Linehan’s very own blog: “Bit short tonight so apologies for that…sometimes when you edit all the fat out, the show comes in short. Need to address that next series. A bit more character stuff is what it needs, I think – don’t need to be quite so paranoid about moving the plot along…”

Spot on. The running time was approximately 21:45 which isn’t quite the shortest ever, but runs a close second to The Dinner Party (21:38), both well over a minute shorter than would be typical. (The longest episode so far, fact fans, is Aunt Irma Visits at 25:04.) ‘Character’ stuff’ is what I felt was missing last week, it was a pretty breakneck episode, and a little character time this week might have allowed Jen to feel a greater part of the main story…or allowed her own tale to develop a little further.

Also: “My aim with this series is to make everyone stop talking about the theatre episode.” A worthy goal to be sure – there’s no question that, despite being quite an atypical episode (in that it was mainly set over one evening, and predominantly pre-recorded on location) The Work Outing has become The One To Beat. While Are We Not Men? doesn’t steal the title, it’s certainly in the upper half of IT Crowd episodes to date.

Interestingly, the strengths of the two shows come from a similar place: both take a relatively simple premise and allow it to escalate. Where the earlier story does better, though, is in keeping Jen in the mix. She’s intrinsic to the way The Work Outing begins, and her story is in many ways the spine. Moss and Roy find their own chaos spreading out from there. In Are We Not Men?, sadly, Jen’s story is almost totally unrelated to the boys’ adventure, and so feels a little tacked-on.

Still, it’s closer to the show at its best than last week’s From Hell, where the four main stories barely related to one another and had to be awkwardly fused together. That’s the trick, it seems: IT Crowd stories need to spread outwards from a central premise, rather than starting disparate and being woven together.

Bodie, Doyle, Tiger, The Jewellery Man

John Willie Hopkins returns as the Postman – now named Harry – having appeared in the very first episode, Yesterday’s Jam

After his appearance here Paul Bazely is unlikely to find any work outside of the Magic Circle.

Some bloke named Matt Berry is credited at the start of the show, yet never makes an appearance.

Have You Tried Turning It Off And On Again?

The catchphrase is nowhere to be seen. But then, nobody this week does any work anyway.

The website Moss has discovered is called Unsurprisingly, in the real world Fremantle Media have bought it.

Don’t Google The Question

“Will you watch your language? My ears are not a toilet.”

Graham Linehan finds the button marked ‘story’ and presses it. A big improvement on last week, which pressed the ‘moments’ button repeatedly but rarely made the elements cohere, Are We Not Men? also sticks to what The IT Crowd does best – the tales of nerds getting into trouble. Not perfect, but tonally spot-on and often fist-poundingly funny.

The structure of the Moss/Roy story is clear, simple and well-executed. Their desire to be more accepted as ‘men’, and the net-based way they go about it, comes directly from the characters as we know them to be. The clumsy way they go from chatting in a pub to attending a match to Roy owing money in poker feels totally organic. And the switch to a Guy Richie movie in the last act is an eye-rolling ‘well, it would have to be with those guys’ turn that, in fact, is so appropriate that it’s fairly predictable. Which isn’t always a bad thing.

In fact it’s all very Seinfeld this week. The main story takes pretty humble George/Jerry/Kramer-type concerns (“Are we manly enough? If not, what can we do about that?”) and sees things spiral into self-created chaos. Once again Roy ruins a perfectly good man for Jen in what is, as mentioned above, a very prototypical ‘that guy you’re dating is nice except for…’ story. And there’s a nice line in repeated phrases, divorced almost totally from their meaning. (A relative of both things like “master of my domain” and Father Ted’s own “That would be an ecumenical matter…”.) It’s all Larry David-mongous.

But The IT Crowd isn’t the same show, and spinning Jen into her own tale seems like a mistake. Aside from a few nice moments, the B-story plods a very basic path. Somehow the disparate nature of Seinfeld isn’t appropriate here.

I’m torn on the naughty language – generally I think the show, with it’s oddly innocent tone, suits expletive-covering beeps better, but there’s no denying that it allows the final “Fuck off Harry” gag to work a treat. (This is, of course, a reversal on the face-slap that concluded Moss and the German, a not-quite-successful moment intended to conclude Roy’s ‘feminine’ role in that episode. That it works perfectly here, showing Roy as conclusively masculine, is reason enough to concede on the naughty words.)

Overall, an improvement on last week, a return to some core IT Crowd themes, a tidy story and…Christ, I’m still giggling at that kiss.

4 Stars

About this entry


I needed an inhaler after the kiss and I’m not even asthmatic!! I think half of the female IT Crowd fans had their dreams come true…no??

By Lily
November 29, 2008 @ 10:07 pm

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> Cut to reveal

Oh yes!

> From Mr. Linehan […] next series

Oh yes, please.

> From Hell, where the four main stories barely related to one another and had to be awkwardly fused together.

Didn’t feel awkward to me… more like a big pleasant surprise in the end. That “ohhhhh suddenly everything’s connected” moment worked for me.

> that kiss

Best thing since “Blue”. :)

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By Marleen
November 29, 2008 @ 10:35 pm

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> and ultimately the brace is simply removed during other dialogue.

I thought that was a bit lame. The gag was throwaway to begin with and then he just removes it during the bloody scene therefore making it utterly meaningless. It reminded me of the moment in Ted Tentacles of Doom when Dougal has to pointlessly walk across the room to get to the place he needs to be for the gag. Though that was brilliant so it can be excused.

I thought this ep was a bit naff in places to tell you the truth. It felt like I’d seen every beat before in other sitcoms, and while maybe that’s not the end of the world there’s no way I would have given it 4 stars. The best part for me was the very One Foot In The Grave-like scene where Roy doesn’t realise who’s doing the robbery. However, driving into the back of the truck was crap and Roy’s lines in the dark were just…nothing, that didn’t work for me at all. If Graham needed to trim fat out of the ep it was there. With no lines from the other guys in the car it should have cut just after Roy’s ‘did you see that ludicrous display last night?’ there was no need for the rest. Moss needed more stuff to do while Roy was at the centre of everything.

Jen’s boyfriend looking like a magician is EXTREMELY Seinfeld. The whole episode was, of course, but it most reminds me of the one where Elaine’s going out with that guy who paints his face going to football games, and there are loads of scenes in Seinfeld where Jerry and George are put on the spot about their ‘manliness’. Seinfeld gets away with a lot though because there’s 22-24 episodes a season so you know if one’s a little dodgy you can just move onto the next one. When you’ve got The IT Crowd with 6 episodes you want every one to be great. I don’t reckon this one was.

Oh one thing, the language should have been bleeped. In Graham’s sitcoms it’s always better bleeped. Why is he breaking his own rules?

By performingmonkey
November 30, 2008 @ 12:53 am

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Can I just say, the part where Elaine…sorry, Jen walks out the door and comes back in is THE most Seinfeld-like scene Linehan has EVER done!

By performingmonkey
November 30, 2008 @ 12:57 am

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One last thing, when exactly did Katherine get so freaking HOT??! Oh yeah, and my second favourite moment of the episode was - Roy: ‘We’re men, we’re proper men, what’s so different about us?’ Moss: (shrugs…pulls out stapler).

Incidentally, has anyone ever said ‘did you see that ludicrous display last night?’ in that voice? I couldn’t give two fucks about football and I can totally relate to Moss and Roy in the pub not knowing what to say. I remember calling Wayne Rooney a ‘thug’, getting a few funny looks and thinking ‘am I turning into Adrian Mole?’ (sry if you don’t know Adrian Mole) Personally I would liked to have seen it turned on it’s head later on where Moss said something about computers and the football guys didn’t get it. Though maybe that would have been repeating the ‘invalid memory’ scene. Oh just ffffuck.

By performingmonkey
November 30, 2008 @ 1:11 am

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Good review.

I loved this episode.

I agree the Jen/magician thread could perhaps have been developed more. Mind you the whole Jen/boyfriend has been done before a couple of times, but the magician stuff certainly added extra amusement.

Pretty much the entire football/robbery thread was brilliant though. The only thing that fell flat for me there was when they were in the lorry trailer. Not the part where they drove in, that was great (particularly the loss of momentum gag.) Not even when the Irish guy started crying, it just went on too long. And they really shouldn’t have returned to that in the post credits sequence with him nattering away there inanely. I get the humor, but I just didn’t find it funny. Granted that might be subjective though.

This was certainly one of the top episodes of this programme I’ve ever seen though. Kiss gag, I agree that was very funny. The football stuff…. yeah I admit, they could have been me. I’ve been to a match with a mate, and whilst it wasn’t bad, I found myself getting bored with the shere repetitiveness. I seemed to enjoy the after match drink in the pub much more.

And the whole twist when the robbery takes place… not knowing he is an accomplice right up until they jump back in the car… daftly brilliant.

I liked episode 1, but this superseded that.

By ChrisM
November 30, 2008 @ 3:56 am

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>One last thing, when exactly did Katherine get so freaking HOT??!

Are you insane? She’s been hot since the start!

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By Tanya Jones
November 30, 2008 @ 3:42 pm

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They really do know how to dress her remarkable figure – I am perpetually struck. (Not a euphemism.)

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By Andrew
November 30, 2008 @ 3:57 pm

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I’m clearly not as big a fan of the IT crowd as some, but I never get bored of those comedy jump-cuts in any medium. Moss and Roy at a football game had me in stitches, and I loved Martin’s first appearance. I actually thought Roy’s material over the credits was better than what they actually had in the episode, too.

The “talking about football” stuff was amusing for its familiarity, but Armando Iannucci did it much better. I wasn’t so sure about Roy’s motivation, either. He seemed to want to be a “real man” in order to get some female attention, but all thoughts of that evaporated almost immediately. It’s this kind of structural/thematic inadequacy that leaves me feeling like The IT Crowd is still a bit below the standards it should be hitting. Too many of the jokes, good as they are, have no character-based follow-through, and as a result the cast aren’t as defined as in certain other great sitcoms.

That’s to say nothing of the way the premise is under-utilised, as well. Especially in this episode, we got no real indication of why Roy wouldn’t consider himself a “real man”, and it really wouldn’t have taken much to put something in about it. I don’t think the fact that he works in the IT department is justification enough, but… Linehan appears to.

By James Hunt
November 30, 2008 @ 4:37 pm

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I was on holiday in Malta, and had to get on Youtube saturday morning - that kiss was marvellous, and I thought the ‘cockneyneck’ was great, too. Excellent stuff.

By Si
November 30, 2008 @ 6:46 pm

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> Especially in this episode, we got no real indication of why Roy wouldn’t consider himself a “real man”

When in past episodes has he ever appeared ‘cool’ or like a ‘real man’? Anyway, this is just to get the audience to relate to him.

By performingmonkey
November 30, 2008 @ 9:36 pm

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Top Three Funniest Man-On-Man Pashes:

1) Moss and Roy
2) Lister and Rimmer, Red Dwarf
3) Coop and Remer, BASEketball

I too couldn’t breathe during the kissing scene. And still couldn’t when I watched it a second time.

When Michael the Magnificent ran crying from the office, was anyone else reminded of Tim running from Bilbo’s shop after getting fired in Spaced? Lol.

By Sariele
December 01, 2008 @ 5:01 pm

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I just watched this with a big plate of nachos. The kiss—without exaggeration—made me laugh so hard I was in serious danger of puking them up.

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By Phil Reed
December 03, 2008 @ 12:39 am

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>sat in a pub with his glass of milk

Was this not a White Russian, his twice-mentioned drink of choice?

>The timing on the robbers trying on balaclavas (trying on balaclavas!) and checking their guns while Roy witters on in the foreground is also exquisite.

Almost UNBEARABLY well done.

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By Phil Reed
December 03, 2008 @ 12:44 am

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> Was this not a White Russian, his twice-mentioned drink of choice?

Oh Lord, I’m sure you’re right. (This series is getting drastic on the continuity, huh?) I just…can’t imagine Moss drinking actual alcohol.

I also missed that the stapler is an in-joke to Office Space.

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By Andrew
December 03, 2008 @ 2:48 am

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My first thought was milk, too. White Russian dawned later. Milk got the laugh. :-)

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By Phil Reed
December 03, 2008 @ 3:45 am

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Maybe it was a virgin white Russian. ;)

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By Marleen
December 03, 2008 @ 10:31 am

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